5 tips to get into international tour booking
"I’m an agent at and owner of Mindless Bookings from Belgium. We’re a full service artist booking agency that was founded in 2012. What started as a few friends setting up small hardcore shows, has grown into an agency putting its heart in helping up-and-coming bands getting their name out and exploring new territories. We specialize in European tour bookings and our main focus goes out to bands in heavy music: metal, hardcore and everything in between. The markets that we cover include mainland Europe as a whole, as well as the United Kingdom." - Maarten Janssen
Below I’ll be giving my personal views on international tour booking and how to get started with it.
- Be nice and respectful
- Be patient
- Don’t expect to earn big money
- Make sure your band is ready to tour before sending them out on the road
- Build up a network of reliable promoters
Be nice and respectful
Whoever you’re talking to: bands, managers, promoters, other booking agents… always try to be nice and respectful. When you’re just starting to book bands, you’ll most likely be working with small acts that are not very known yet. This also means you’ll not be working with big venues and promoters, but with rather smaller ones. Often these promoters are very DIY minded and prefer to work with bands directly instead of talking to booking agencies. Being an ass won’t help you gain those people’s trust, so make it clear you’ve started booking for the right reason: the love for music and the desire to help out bands.
Being nice also means saying thank you. When I do something for someone, I also value a sign of appreciation afterwards. Others do to.
Booking tours often is a very stressful job. Especially when you’re in a tight time frame. A lot of times, you’ll be waiting on replies, confirmations, documents to be filled out and so on. Give promoters some time to help you out and sort out their side of things. However, check for updates on a regular basis to make sure they’re still on it.
Don’t expect to earn big money
Working with small bands means booking shows for low fees and even ‘door deals’. As a booking agent you’ll be paid commission-wise (for example 10-15%), so low fees mean low commission. You won’t get rich booking small bands, but in my opinion this also can't be your drive when you start doing this. I’ve started booking tours because I wanted to help out friends in bands, not to make money (and this is still the case today). Of course, the longer you do it, the more tours you’ll do, the bigger the bands you’ll be able to book for, the higher the fees will be and in the end you’ll be able to make money from it, which is logical and fair, as you’re putting your time and effort into it (just like other people do this in other jobs and earn a living from it as well).
Make sure your band is ready to tour before sending them out on the road
Before you decide to send a band out on the road, make sure they are also ready to tour. First of all, this means having decent recordings. No one is going to be interested in having a fairly unknown band play a show when they’re not even able to properly check out the band up front. Next to this, an upcoming and growing fanbase is important as well. And having good recordings allows a band to make that fanbase grow, so it’s not an ‘or-or’ situation.
Build up a network of reliable promoters
This is without a doubt the most important advice I could give to anyone looking to start booking tours. Without knowing the right people in the right territories, you won’t even be able to start booking a run of shows in the first place. The result of this: you’ll be spending a lot of time emailing and messaging new people, while keeping in mind the other points I’ve discussed above.
In your search for promoters, you’ll also have to deal with unreliable promoters. People who cancel shows without any acceptable reason, people who don’t respect the conditions, people who don’t show up… Everything can happen. To avoid this as much as possible, make sure you properly check out the promoters you work with up front. Have a chat with them, look into their previous events, talk to people who’ve already worked with them and so on. After a while, you’ll know who to work with and who to avoid.
Building a relationship also means not ripping off promoters from your end. So don’t overprice your bands, you don’t want to be “that guy who charges too much”. On the other hand also make sure your band is not being underpaid, ‘cause this can also damage the image of a band.
In general, I’d say booking bands is great. If you feel this is what you want to do, don’t hesitate and dive into it. You get to meet a lot of great people and finishing up a tour always is rewarding. But keep in mind it’s very time consuming and it can be quite frustrating at times as well.